The strong spatial and temporal variability of traffic-related air pollution detected at roadside locations in a number of European cities has raised the question of how representative the site and time period of air quality measurements actually can be. To address this question, a 7-month sampling campaign was carried out on a major road axis (Avenue Leclerc) leading to a very busy intersection (Place Basch) in central Paris, covering the surroundings of a permanent air quality monitoring station. This station has recorded the highest CO and NO, concentrations during recent years in the region of Paris. Diffusive BTX samplers as well as a mobile monitoring unit equipped with real-time CO, NO, and 03 analysers and meteorological instruments were used to reveal the small-scale pollution gradients and their temporal trends near the permanent monitoring station. The diffusive measurements provided 7-day averages of benzene, toluene, xylene and other hydrocarbons at different heights above the ground and distances from the kerb covering summer and winter periods. Relevant traffic and meteorological data were also obtained on an hourly basis. Furthermore, three semi-empirical dispersion models (STREET-SRI, OSPM and AEOLIUS) were tested for an asymmetric canyon location in Av. Leclerc. The analysis of this comprehensive data set has helped to assess the representativeness of air quality monitoring information. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.